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Watch out for Tiger Woods in the USPGA, says Gary Player

gary_player_uspga_interview
Laureus Academy Member Gary Player is one of only five men to achieve golf’s Grand Slam by winning all four Major Championships. Here he exclusively looks ahead to this week’s USPGA Championship for Laureus.com
 

Q: Can you tell us about your two wins in the US PGA?

Gary Player: I have won the PGA Championship twice and I have won the Senior PGA Championship three times, so it has a very special place in my career and heart. Every Major is special in its own way, but the PGA Championship is an incredibly demanding test every year and this year at Oak Hill will be no different.
 
Q: What can you tell us about the Oak Hill course?

GP: It is a historic course that has proven its difficulty in past Majors. I think this year will be no different, and I do not see a winning score being very high. Accuracy off the tee will be essential to ensure they do not encounter the formidable rough and trees of Oak Hill. The greens are quite small, and also have a substantial amount of slope. You will have to find the greens, but also putt well, of course, to find any success there.
 

Q: It has been a pretty eventful year in golf. Tiger Woods has won five USPGA Tour events and he is No.1 again. Can you assess his remarkable comeback?

GP:This is the tenth year that Tiger has recorded five victories in a season. That is an amazing statistic. When Tiger is putting well, he is nearly unstoppable. I am extremely happy for him and look forward to some more great golf to come.
 
Q: He has not yet managed to win a Major this year. Will Oak Hill suit him?

GP: Oak Hill is quite similar to Firestone Country Club, where Tiger just carded his 8th WGC-Bridgestone Invitational victory in convincing fashion with a seven shot lead.  He might struggle off the tee, but I still think he could do very well. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was also a good indication because it shows that Tiger is in the right mindset and determined to win his 15th Major.

Q: If Tiger has got stronger, Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, is having a difficult time. What has gone wrong for him?

GP: No one can say for certain. Rory is such a talent. I think it is only a matter of time for him to bounce back and start winning tournaments again.

 
Q: As you are such an experienced player, what advice would you give to Rory?

GP: Rory simply needs to continue working on his game and make sure that he makes it back to the confident, determined mindset that will help him compete well and win tournaments.  He is an outstanding young man and golfer.
 
Q: Can he come back and win at Oak Hill, or at the moment is it beyond him?

GP: You can never count anything out. Rory just has to be focused and play as well as he knows that he is capable for the week. There is no doubt that Rory has the capability. You just have to look back to last year’s USPGA Championship. He was a dominant force at Kiawah’s Ocean Course.
 
Q: And can you tell us your thoughts on Phil Mickelson’s great win in the Open Championship at Muirfield.

GP: Phil continues to show that he is one of golf’s best short game players. His victory at Muirfield was an incredible victory. Phil now just has one last leg to complete his Grand Slam – the US Open. I would love to see him accomplish that feat.
 
Q: He seems a very nice man. The picture of him hugging his family at the 18th was a lovely image. Can you tell us about him as an individual?

GP: Phil is a truly genuine, wonderful individual. I could not be any happier for him. Aside from being a dedicated family man, I was touched that Phil was one of the few professionals that came to see Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and me as honorary starters at the Masters this past year. He has great respect for us older guys. Mostly Phil cares about the game, leaving a meaningful legacy, and that shows.
 
Q: Will he be focused for Oak Hill, or will the Open victory be difficult to follow up?

GP: It is extremely difficult to play well in back-to-back Major Championships because of the commitments that come after having won a Major in today’s media driven culture. It seems that he has been practising a good bit ahead of the tournament and if his short game is on par with what it was at Muirfield, he certainly has a considerable chance.
 
Q: Who else do you think will have a good USPGA Championship?

GP: The past three USPGA Championship winners have all been in their 20s, so perhaps it would be a good guess that another young guy will win the final Major of the year. I like the chances of Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker, Luke Donald, and of course you cannot count out Tiger.

 
Q: If you were forced to tip one golfer to win, who would it be?

GP: Henrik Stenson has been playing spectacular golf. He was in contention at the Open Championship and finished second last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He is focused and his chances are very good this week at the PGA Championship.